David Moyes returns to Old Trafford for a Boxing Day mash-up. The former Manchester United boss will be hoping to avoid being the post-Christmas turkey as Sunderland aim to mark the festive period with points. But, this morning's talk was all about those rumours that Jermain Defoe is wanted by West Ham. Moyes isn't daft enough to let that happen without a fight surely.
Sunderland avoided being bottom of the table at Christmas, but there is a chance of returning there on Boxing Day with a tricky fixture against Manchester United. Our relegation rivals fare little better, however, with Hull hosting Manchester City and Swansea up against West Ham in a match that would have been a relegation six-pointer prior to the Hammers run of seven points in their last three games.
With the Africa Cup of Nations looming, the next couple of fixtures represent the final opportunities for David Moyes to field the likes of Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong until February. Some reshuffling is likely from New Years Eve onwards as players begin to drift away to Africa to assemble with the squads taking part in the tournament.
In his pre-match, pre-Christmas address this afternoon, David Moyes revealed a trio of players, who have been struggling with injuries, namely Steven Pienaar, Billy Jones and Javier Manquillo, have been training all week. The Sunderland manager also said that Jan Kirchhoff will be missing for 12 weeks following knee surgery. The German has endured the type of season we were warned was likely when he signed - an injury-hit battle.
But, the morning speculation had centred around a report in the Sun which suggested West Ham are weighing up a £6m bid for Jermain Defoe in the January window. Naturally, the Sunderland boss was directly asked about the rumour. His response - he would be "surprised" if such a thing was allowed. Local media outlets have also reported that Moyes claimed to know nothing about the approach which the morning reports had suggested has already been made regarding the former England striker's availability.
The wily veteran of over 500 games as a Premier League manager isn't daft - far from it. So his blunt riposte is a clear warning to those who hold the purse strings at the Stadium of Light. Surprised if Defoe was sold? Yes. Surprised if Sunderland AFC allowed a sale without my approval? Yes.
It is but a few days since a disgruntled Moyes revealed he would have had second thoughts about taking the Sunderland job in the first place, had he known the club was up for sale, and that he would have no transfer budget in January. His direct response on the Defoe issue, is surely a clear warning to the club that selling his top scorer would be another nail in the coffin of trust which sinks with each manager who says the same thing about the American owner of the football club - a man who himself is desperately seeking a way out.
Frankly, if Sunderland were tempted to cash-in the 34-year-old Defoe, it would cost them three times the £6m to replace him and would condemn the club to certain relegation. And the Sunderland fans would never forgive the hierarchy if such a thing was allowed. But, genuinely - who would put it past them?